Republic of Biafra proclaimed

Republic of Biafra proclaimed

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After suffering through years of suppression under Nigeria’s military government, the breakaway state of Biafra proclaims its independence from Nigeria.

In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, prompting tens of thousands of Igbos to flee to the east, where their people were the dominant ethnic group. The Igbos doubted that Nigeria’s oppressive military government would allow them to develop, or even survive, so on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives of the area established the Republic of Biafra, comprising several states of Nigeria.

After diplomatic efforts by Nigeria failed to reunite the country, war between Nigeria and Biafra broke out in July 1967. Ojukwu’s forces made some initial advances, but Nigeria’s superior military strength gradually reduced Biafran territory. The state lost its oil fields–its main source of revenue–and without the funds to import food, an estimated one million of its civilians died as a result of severe malnutrition. On January 11, 1970, Nigerian forces captured the provincial capital of Owerri, one of the last Biafran strongholds, and Ojukwu was forced to flee to the Ivory Coast. Four days later, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.

10 Things You Should Know About Biafra And The Biafran War

Nearly 50 years after the Biafran War (July 6, 1967 – January 15, 1970) which almost destroyed the unity of Nigeria, its agitators have refused to give up the struggle.

This struggle by some Igbo people to secede from Nigeria started when on May 30, 1967, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a military officer and politician announced a breakaway of the Eastern Region under the new name Republic of Biafra.

This subsequently sparked the Nigerian civil war also known as the Biafran war. The war was between the then Eastern Region of Nigeria and the rest of the country. The war was fought to reunify the country.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Defence Academy Admission

Below are some thing you should know about Biafra and the Biafran war.

1. Meaning of Biafra

Little is known about the literal meaning of the word Biafra. The word Biafra most likely derives from the subgroup Biafar or Biafada of the Tenda ethnic group who reside primarily in Guinea-Bissau. The word Biafar thus appears to have been a common word in the Portuguese language back in the 16th century. Biafra, a secessionist state in south eastern Nigeria is believed to have taken its name from the Bight of Biafra (the Atlantic bay to its south).

2. What caused the war

According to local and foreign war historians the immediate causes of the Nigeria civil war in 1966 included: a military coup (carried out by Maj. Nzeogwu which led to the death of Tafawa Belewa, etc), a counter-coup (led by Gowon, which led to the brutal murder of Aguiyi Ironsi, Fajuyi, etc) and the 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom in the north (persecution of Igbo people living in Northern Nigeria).

3. Over one million people died in the war

The war which lasted for 30 months took the lives of more than one million people. Some died in the battle while others were lost majorly through famine, and hunger. There were over 50,000 casualties of soldiers both from Biafran side and the Nigerian military.

4. The Biafran money

The Biafran money

The Biafran government created the Bank of Biafra, accomplished under "Decree No. 3 of 1967”. The bank was administered by a governor and four directors the first governor, who signed on bank notes, was Sylvester Ugoh. They had their own currency different from that of Nigeria. The currency of Biafra had been the Nigerian pound, until the Bank of Biafra started printing out its own notes, the Biafran pound. The new currency went public on 28 January 1968. It is estimated that a total of £115–140 million Biafran pounds were in circulation by the end of the war.

Watch the November 6 protest on Onitsha bridge against the detention of Radio Biafra director, Nnamdi Kanu (the article continues below):

The Nigerian Government at the end of the war ordered defeated Biafrans to destroy all their currencies.

5. Their national anthem

Land of the Rising Sun" was the proclaimed national anthem of the secessionist state of Biafra, in south-eastern Nigeria. The tune was adopted from Sibelius' "Finlandia", and written by Nnamdi Azikiwe.

A flag of red, black and green, horizontally, with a rising sun from the Coat of Arms (of the old Eastern Province) in gold in the centre was created by the Biafran Government and raised on May 30, 1967. The design and colours are based on the Pan-African flag designed by Marcus Garvey's Union. The eleven rays of the sun represented the eleven provinces of Biafra.

The Biafran flag

The three Pan-African colors on the flag represent:

Red: the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation

Black: black people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag

Green: the abundant natural wealth of Africa.

7. States under Biafra

It constituted the former Eastern region of Nigeria and was inhabited principally by Igbo (Ibo) people. Biafra has been commonly divided into four main "tribes": the Igbos, the Ibibio-Efiks, the Ijaws and the Ogojas. The modern-day states that make up Biafra from the eastern region and midwest are: Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Delta, Rivers and Cross River, Igbanke in Edo state and southern part of Benue state. Edo.

8. How they got their arms and ammunitions

The Biafrans, through many of their people abroad, mounted a very strong campaign and propaganda for the recognition of Biafra by the international community and for the purchase of arms and equipment. Biafra was recognised by countries like, Tanzania, Zambia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Haiti and Côte d'Ivoire.

However, Britain supplied amounts of heavy weapons and ammunition to the Nigerian side because of its desire to preserve the country it created.

9. How Nigerian military captured Biafran territories back

In March 1968, Onitsha fell to federal troops of the 2nd Infantry Division, after many bloody unsuccessful attempts. In April, Abakaliki was captured, followed in May by the fall of Port Harcourt to troops of the 3rd Marine Commando Division. Aba fell to federal forces on September 4th followed on September 16th by Owerri and Okigwe was taken on October 1st.

10. How the war ended

Biafran forces were finally routed in a series of engagements in late December 1969 and early January 1970. Realising that the situation was a hopeless one, Ojukwu handed over the administration of Biafra to the Commander Biafran Army Maj. Gen. Phillip Effiong. He then fled with his immediate family to Côte d’Ivoire. Effiong consulted with the Biafra Strategic Committee on the situation and they decided that enough was enough and that the only honorable way out was to surrender. Biafra, on the point of total collapse, surrendered and ceased to exist.

Republic of Biafra proclaimed - HISTORY

A History of the Republic of Biafra: Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War

Cambridge University Press, 2020

The Republic of Biafra lasted for less than three years, but the war over its secession would contort Nigeria for decades to come. Samuel Fury Childs Daly examines the history of the Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath from an uncommon vantage point – the courtroom. Wartime Biafra was glutted with firearms, wracked by famine, and administered by a government that buckled under the weight of the conflict. In these dangerous conditions, many people survived by engaging in fraud, extortion, and armed violence. When the fighting ended in 1970, these survival tactics endured, even though Biafra itself disappeared from the map. Based on research using an original archive of legal records and oral histories, Daly catalogues how people navigated conditions of extreme hardship on the war front, and shows how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country's long experience of crime that was to follow.

‘A striking mixture of the human interest of “true crime”, and theoretical insight into the operation of “lawfare” in a breakaway state at war […] The legal history of Biafra offers a West African parable of power and idealism.’ Times Literary Supplement

'With a powerful and thoughtful analysis, Daly shows how secession and civil war remake a nation and national culture. Nigeria after 1970 is not a case of lost causes and triumphant nationalisms, but of stolen weapons and survival strategies that spread from the war zone to the scams in our in-boxes.' Luise White, University of Florida

'One of the most critical, systematic and lucid analyses of the unravelling of the pre-Civil War social order in Nigeria. Daly takes legal history and unfurls it as social history - and vice versa - in a vivid and intense narrative of the shape of everyday life in the secessionist enclave of Biafra and beyond. This is an extraordinary account of the different dimensions of life in wartime as well as in immediate post-war Nigeria. An eloquent testimony to the barbarity of war as well as its shattering banality.' Wale Adebanwi, University of Oxford

'Using surviving Biafran court records, supported by oral histories, Daly vividly shows the disintegration of traditional norms and behavior, presenting a compelling case that lawlessness in Nigeria emerged directly from wartime conditions. A valuable and unique contribution to current reassessments of the Nigerian Civil War.' S. Elizabeth Bird, University of South Florida

'Much more than a history of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, this book is a mediation on how the Nigerian civil war emerged from, reconstituted, and scarred government institutions. It is simultaneously sensitive social history and a provocative attempt to explain postwar Nigeria's corruption and political dysfunction.' Steven Pierce, University of Manchester


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Biafra, secessionist western African state that unilaterally declared its independence from Nigeria in May 1967. It constituted the former Eastern Region of Nigeria and was inhabited principally by Igbo (Ibo) people. Biafra ceased to exist as an independent state in January 1970.

In the mid-1960s economic and political instability and ethnic friction characterized Nigerian public life. In the mostly Hausa north, resentment against the more prosperous, educated Igbo minority erupted into violence. In September 1966, some 10,000 to 30,000 Igbo people were massacred in the Northern Region, and perhaps 1,000,000 fled as refugees to the Igbo-dominated east. Non-Igbos were then expelled from the Eastern Region.

Attempts by representatives of all regions to come to an agreement were unsuccessful. On May 30, 1967, the head of the Eastern Region, Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Odumegwu Ojukwu, with the authorization of a consultative assembly, declared the region a sovereign and independent republic under the name of Biafra. General Yakubu Gowon, the leader of the federal government, refused to recognize Biafra’s secession. In the hostilities that broke out the following July, Biafran troops were at first successful, but soon the numerically superior federal forces began to press Biafra’s boundaries inward from the south, west, and north. Biafra shrank to one-tenth its original area in the course of the war. By 1968 it had lost its seaports and become landlocked supplies could be brought in only by air. Starvation and disease followed estimates of mortality during the war generally range from 500,000 to 3,000,000.

The Organization of African Unity, the papacy, and others tried to reconcile the combatants. Most countries continued to recognize Gowon’s regime as the government of all Nigeria, and the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union supplied it with arms. On the other hand, international sympathy for the plight of starving Biafran children brought airlifts of food and medicine from many countries. Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Tanzania, and Zambia recognized Biafra as an independent state, and France sent Biafra weapons.

Biafran forces were finally routed in a series of engagements in late December 1969 and early January 1970. Ojukwu fled to Côte d’Ivoire, and the remaining Biafran officers surrendered to the federal government on January 15, 1970. Biafra, on the point of total collapse, thereupon ceased to exist.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy McKenna, Senior Editor.


In mid-1968, images of malnourished and starving Biafran children saturated the mass media of Western countries. The plight of the starving Biafrans became a cause célèbre in foreign countries, enabling a significant rise in the funding and prominence of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union were the main supporters of the Nigerian government, while France, Israel and some other countries supported Biafra.

Shortly after extending its blockade to include oil, the Nigerian government launched a "police action" to retake the secessionist territory. [95] The war began on the early hours of 6 July 1967 when Nigerian Federal troops advanced in two columns into Biafra. The Biafra strategy had succeeded. The federal government had started the war, and the East was defending itself. [96] The Nigerian Armyoffensive was through the north of Biafra led by Colonel Mohammed Shuwaand the local military units were formed as the 1st Infantry Division. The division was led mostly by northern officers. After facing unexpectedly fierce resistance and high casualties, the right-hand Nigerian column advanced on the town of Nsukka, which fell on 14 July, while the left-hand column made for Garkem, which was captured on 12 July. [ citation needed ]

The Biafrans responded with an offensive of their own when, on 9 August, the Biafran forces moved to the westside into the Mid-Western of Nigerian region which is across the Niger river, passing through Benin City, until they were stopped at Ore in (Ondo State) just over the state boundary on 21 August, just 130 miles east of the Nigerian capital of Lagos. The Biafran attack was led by Lt. Col. Banjo, a Yoruba, with the Biafran rank of brigadier. The attack met little resistance and the Mid-West was easily taken over.

This was due to the pre-secession arrangement that all soldiers should return to their regions to stop the spate of killings, in which Igbo soldiers had been major victims. [44] [97] The Nigerian soldiers who were supposed to defend the Mid-West state were mostly Mid-West Igbo and, while some were in touch with their eastern counterparts, others resisted. General Gowon responded by asking Colonel Murtala Mohammed (who later became head of state in 1975) to form another division (the 2nd Infantry Division) to expel the Biafrans from the Mid-West, as well as to defend the West side and attack Biafra from the West as well. As Nigerian forces retook the Mid-West, the Biafran military administrator declared the Republic of Benin on 19 September, though it ceased to exist the next day. (The present country of Benin, west of Nigeria, was still named Dahomey at that time.) [ citation needed ]

Although Benin City was retaken by the Nigerians on 22 September, the Biafrans succeeded in their primary objective by tying down as many Nigerian Federal troops as they could. Gen. Gowon also launched an offensive into Biafra south from the Niger Delta to the riverine area, using the bulk of the Lagos Garrison command under Colonel Benjamin Adekunle (called the Black Scorpion) to form the 3rd Infantry Division (which was later renamed as the 3rd Marine Commando). As the war continued, the Nigerian Army recruited amongst a wider area, including the Yoruba, Itshekiri, Urhobo, Edo, Ijaw, etc. [ citation needed ]

Nigerian offensive Edit

The command was divided into two brigades with three battalions each. 1st brigade advanced 1 Brigade advanced on the axis Ogugu - Ogunga - Nsukka road while 2nd Brigade advanced on axis Gakem -Obudu - Ogoja road. By 10 July 1967, it had conquered all its assigned territories. By 12 July the 2nd brigade had captured Gakem, Ogudu, Ogoja.

Enugu became the hub of secession and rebellion, and the Nigerian government believed that once Enugu was captured, the drive for secession would end. The plans to conquer Enugu began on 12 September 1967 and by 4 October 1967 the Nigerian Army had captured Enugu. [92] Nigerian soldiers under Murtala Mohammed carried out a mass killing of 700 civilians when they captured Asaba on the River Niger. The Nigerians were repulsed three times as they attempted to cross the River Niger during October, resulting in the loss of thousands of troops, dozens of tanks and equipment. The first attempt by the 2nd Infantry Division on 12 October to cross the Niger from the town of Asaba to the Biafran city of Onitsha cost the Nigerian Federal Army over 5,000 soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing. Operation Tiger Claw (17󈞀 October 1967) was a military conflict between Nigerian and Biafran military forces. On 17 October 1967 Nigerians invaded Calabar led by the "Black Scorpion", Benjamin Adekunle, while the Biafrans were led by Col. Ogbu Ogi, who was responsible for controlling the area between Calabar and Opobo, and Lynn Garrison, a foreign mercenary. The Biafrans came under immediate fire from the water and the air. For the next two days Biafran stations and military supplies were bombarded by the Nigerian air force. That same day Lynn Garrison reached Calabar but came under immediate fire by federal troops. By 20 October, Garrison's forces withdrew from the battle while Col. Ogi officially surrendered to Gen. Adekunle. On 19 May 1968 Portharcourt was captured. With the capture of Enugu, Bonny, Calabar and Portharcourt, the outside world was left in no doubt of the Federal supremacy in the war. [92]

Control over oil production Edit

Oil exploration in Nigeria was pioneered by Shell-BP Petroleum Development Company in 1937. In a bid to control the oil in the eastern region, the Federal government placed a shipping embargo on the territory. This embargo did not involve oil tankers. The leadership of Biafra wrote to Shell-BP demanding royalties for the oil that was being explored in their region. After much deliberation, Shell-BP decided to pay Biafra the sum of 250,000 pounds. The news of this payment reached the Federal government, which immediately extended the shipping embargo to oil tankers. The Nigerian government also made it clear to Shell-BP that it expected the company to pay all outstanding oil royalty immediately. With the stalling on the payment for Biafra government ask Shell-BP to stop operations in Biafra and took over from the company. [98]

Towards the end of July 1967, Nigerian federal troops and marines captured Bonny Island in the Niger Delta, thereby taking control of vital Shell-BP facilities. [99] Operations began again in May 1968, when Nigeria captured Port Harcourt. Its facilities had been damaged and needed repair. [100] Oil production and export continued, but at a lower level. The completion in 1969 of a new terminal at Forçados brought production up from 142,000 barrels/day in 1958 to 540,000 barrels/day in 1969. In 1970, this figure doubled to 1,080,000 barrels/day. The royalties enabled Nigeria to buy more weapons, hire mercenaries, etc. Biafra proved unable to compete on this economic level. [101]

Atrocities against ethnic minorities in Biafra Edit

Minorities in Biafra suffered atrocities at the hands of those fighting for both sides of the conflict. The pogroms in the North in 1966 were indiscriminately directed against people from Eastern Nigeria. [102]

Despite a seemingly natural alliance among these victims of the pogroms in the north, tensions rose as minorities, who had always harbored an interest in having their own state within the Nigerian federation, were suspected of collaborating with Federal troops to undermine Biafra. [103]

The Federal troops were equally culpable of this crime. In the Rivers area, ethnic minorities sympathetic to Biafra were killed in the hundreds by federal troops. In Calabar, some 2000 Efiks were also killed by Federal troops. [104] Outside of the Biafra, atrocities were recorded against the resident of Asaba in present-day Delta State by both sides of the conflict. [105] [106]l

With increased British support, the Nigerian federal forces launched their final offensive against the Biafrans once again on 23 December 1969, with a major thrust by the 3rd Marine Commando Division. The division was commanded by Col. Olusegun Obasanjo(who later became president twice), which succeeded in splitting the Biafran enclave into two by the end of the year. The final Nigerian offensive, named "Operation Tail-Wind", was launched on 7 January 1970 with the 3rd Marine Commando Division attacking, and supported by the 1st Infantry division to the north and the 2nd Infantry division to the south. The Biafran towns of Owerrifell on 9 January, and Uli on 11 January. Only a few days earlier, Ojukwu fled into exile by plane to the Ivory Coast, leaving his deputy Philip Effiong to handle the details of the surrender to General Yakubu Gowon of the Federal Army on 13 January 1970. The surrender paper was signed on 14 January 1970 in Lagos and thus came the end of the civil war and renunciation of secession. [92] Fighting ended a few days later, with the Nigerian forces advancing into the remaining Biafran-held territories, which was met with little resistance.

After the war, Gowon said, "The tragic chapter of violence is just ended. We are at the dawn of national reconciliation. Once again we have an opportunity to build a new nation. My dear compatriots, we must pay homage to the fallen, to the heroes who have made the supreme sacrifice that we may be able to build a nation, great in justice, fair trade, and industry." [167]

The advent of colonialism in Africa gave birth to many new territories, annexation and extinction of the existing ones. For instance, the territory known as Nigeria today was invented by the colonial masters through the annexation of different existing territories. This geographical invention precipitated the historical distortion and geographical extinction of certain territories. Biafra among other territories lost their sovereignty to this colonial arrangement.

According to Prof. Chinua Achebe, Biafra territory was deduced from “the bight of Biafra, the vast expanse of water covering the Continental shelf into which the Niger empties before flowing into the gulf of Biafra.” In John Mitchell comprehensive map intrinsically made for resolving border disputes, it’s also elucidated that the pertinent estuaries from where the rivers flew into the Ocean is called “Ephraim town” located at 60miles from River Num presently in the South-South Nigeria today. The river is named after Nun, Joshua’s father, the tribe of Ephraim. In a nutshell, some researchers held the view that Biafra was inhabited by Ephraim descendants.

The Nigeria colonial masters successfully formed “Nigeria” from different alien territories but failed to unite her people. Subsequently Nigeria attained her political freedom on October 1st 1960 then arouse power tussle on whom to pilot the country political affairs. It’s an unhealthy political competition among the sections(the Northern, Eastern and Western regions) which Nigeria was divided into. By 1966, It’s conspicuously clear that “Nigeria” was merely a geographical expression lacking the spirit of a nation. The premium on political powers threatened to wreck the whole nation as its let loose upon the country a flood of bitterness, misery and fear perturbing the daily lives of Nigerians. The Military outsted the Civilian government, a counter coup was staged and gruesome killing of civilians in some sections of the country as political tension thickened. Several attempts were made to clean the rots of division and to bury all hatchet which have situated the country into the danger of bloody disintegration but all to no avail.

On the 6th July 1967 the conceivable inferno in the Nigeria’s realm of politics boomeranged and exploded in full horror when the Eastern Nigeria seceded. Lt. Gen Odumegu Ojukwu, the Military Governor of the Eastern Nigeria declared the region as “The Republic of Biafra” as a consequence of the predicament and injustice the Easterners were subjected to in Nigeria. However, these allegations were rebutted by Lt. Gen Yakubu Gowon, the Nigerian Military Heads of States who described the “seeking justice and salvation in independence” claim as a cover up to satisfy Lt. Ojukwu selfish interest. The word “Biafra” and its territory which had gone into extinction was resuscitated through this conflict.

In tandem with Tony Benn popular quote “all war represents a failure of diplomacy.” After dialogue failed, both conflicting parties resorted to violence war. The war lasted for 30 months. Many lives and invaluable properties were lost. Immediately the civil war ended, Yakubu Gowon, the general who led the Nigerian government to victory over Biafra proclaimed that there was “no victor no vanguished” in an effort to repair the bruished nation and also introduced a policy of “Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation” in a pledge of reconciliation.

Twenty-nine years after the devastating war ended, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, an Indian trained lawyer reignited the spirit of Biafra with the formation of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB in 1999. Provoked by the growing acceptance for a new state of Biafra, the Nigerian government under Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo began a clampdown on the group. Uwazuruike and his followers were arrested on different occasions on charges of unlawful gathering and disruption of public peace. The FG Attempts to subjugate this group claimed many lives of its members. Also, the Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) was founded in 2010 by a United Kingdom-based lawyer, Benjamin Onwuka who said the group was on the verge to actualize a “Biafran State.” This group submitted an application to the then UN Secretary General, Banki Moon in 2012. This application dated August 6, 2012 with reference BZM/os.REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA. It also gave the grounds for its application as thus

“It’s now abundantly clear that the security of lives and property of the Biafran people are no longer guaranteed in the entity called Nigeria”

“It is also very clear that the Right of the Biafran peoples to peacefully practice their religion and freedom of association under the United Nations Charter of Freedom of Association is no longer safe and guaranteed in the entity called Nigeria.”

“Therefore, the people of Biafra have resolved that on 5th November 2012, we shall be re-declaring our independence and opt of Nigeria in order to guarantee and protect the Biafran Peoples’ Right to practice their religion without being killed and bombed.” With the spate of time, BZM and all its effort to actualize a Biafran state became a relic of history.

The agitation for Biafra took a new dimension few months President Muhammad Buhari ascension to the seat of presidency. It’s an agitation spearheaded by a faction of MASSOB, the “Indigenous People of Biafra”(IPOB) formed by Nnamdi Kanu with the claim that MASSOB has lost its fundamental focus. In Kanu words, he elucidated that IPOB was on the mission “to settle the issue of Biafra in a civilised and democratic manner.” The FG was dissatisfied with IPOB activities. In order to silence IPOB agenda and to demoralize its members, the FG masterminded Kanu’s arrest by the officers of the Department of State Security, the Nigeria’s secret police. Ironically, the calculated attempt went wrong as IPOB working force was invigorated. The group commenced a relentless global and local campaign for a Biafran state and staged numerous protests against Nnamdi Kanu detention. During this agitation, many IPOB members paid the ultimate price. Eventually Nnamdi Kanu was granted a bail under stringent conditions after almost two-years in incarceration.

At this juncture, it’s pertinent to relate the visibility of Biafra in this contemporary time with the 1967 and present struggle. The struggle was lost despite the unity among the old Easterners. However there was a conflict but it was well managed. Unlike the contemporary Easterners who are disunited politically and ideologically fundamentally because of the states created from the old Eastern region. Furthermore the international communities particularly the Super Powers failed to recognize Biafra as a sovereign state. Without foreign support, secession seems impossible. Nothing is unjust where the super powers play their political game even if million perish.

Till now, the international communities have not declared their support for the contemporary Biafrans. Also, It’s stated in some historical narrations that the old Western region had agreed to secede before the proclamation of Biafra. If not, Ojukwu would not have proclaimed Biafra. It would amount to a suicidal mission for a section of the country to fight the integral components in this contemporary time when the hatred for the “Biafra idea” is obviously at peak in the country. Likewise the sophistication, vibrancy, courage and experience of the Biafra warlord, Lt. Ojukwu superseded the contemporary Biafran leaders yet the war was lost. The agitators for Biafra Republic must learn from history. Biafra can only be actualized with a formidable force because the Nigerian government would always resist any attempt to disintegrate the country. The Biafra struggle had claimed many lives yet . As Nnamdi Kanu deserted the Biafran struggle by joining the race of Ralp Uwazurike and Benjamin Onwuka, it’s pertinent the renaissance Biafrans brainstorm on an alternative mechanism to safeguard their interest in Nigeria.


1 Nigerian National Archives, Enugu (hereafter NNAE) BCA (Biafran Court of Appeal) 5/31/6, The State v. Ibrahim Bakar, 19 Dec. 1967. The names of criminal defendants in unreported cases have been changed to protect their privacy.

2 On the challenges of governing in these conditions, see Mampilly , Zachariah Cherian , Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life during War ( Ithaca : Cornell University Press , 2011 )Google Scholar Debos , Marielle , Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity, and State Formation ( London : Zed Books , 2016 )Google Scholar .

3 This argument builds on an important body of scholarship on colonial rules of law. See, for example, Roberts , Richard and Mann , Kristin , eds., Law in Colonial Africa ( Portsmouth : Heinemann , 1991 )Google Scholar Chanock , Martin , Law, Custom and Social Order: The Colonial Experience in Malawi and Zambia ( Portsmouth : Heinemann , 1998 )Google Scholar Moore , Sally Falk , Social Facts and Fabrications: ‘Customary’ Law on Kilimanjaro, 1880–1980 ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 1986 )Google Scholar Ibhawoh , Bonny , Imperial Justice: Africans in Empire's Court ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2013 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Surkis , Judith , Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930 ( Ithaca : Cornell University Press , 2019 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

4 Many parties have an interest in tarring contemporary African legal systems in this way, from presidents who discredit their own judges to undercut critique, to foreign corporations that use judicial dysfunction as an excuse to ignore local laws. See Appel , Hannah , The Licit Life of Capitalism: US Oil in Equatorial Guinea ( Durham : Duke University Press , 2019 ): 162 –66Google Scholar .

5 The definitive account of this episode is Douglas A. Anthony, Poison and Medicine: Ethnicity, Power, and Violence in a Nigerian City, 1966 to 1986 (New York: Heinemann, 2002).

6 Biafra Sun, 3 Aug. 1967: 2. The correct answer to both questions was “no.”

7 The ethnic dimensions of Biafran ideology are treated comprehensively in Nwauwa , Apollos O. and Korieh , Chima J. , eds., Against All Odds: The Igbo Experience in Postcolonial Nigeria ( Glassboro : Goldline and Jacobs Publishing , 2011 )Google Scholar .

8 Olaniyan , Tejumola , ed., State and Culture in Postcolonial Africa: Enchantings ( Bloomington : Indiana University Press , 2017 ), 11 – 12 Google Scholar . See also Zeleza , Paul Tiyambe , Manufacturing African Studies and Crises ( Dakar : Codesria , 1997 ), 102 –8Google Scholar .

9 Frederick Cooper's influential Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019[2002]) argued for continuity across the moment of independence in its periodization—formal independence passes almost unnoted for many of the countries described. Many historians of independence have followed this lead.

10 Marxist scholars began making this point almost immediately after independence, arguing that the class of “compradors” who took power in most former colonies were members of a bourgeois elite whose rule was best understood as a continuation of colonialism. Debates about how to characterize Nigeria's elites continue. See Tijani , Hakeem Ibikunle , Britain, Leftist Nationalists, and the Transfer of Power in Nigeria, 1945–1965 ( New York : Routledge , 2006 )Google Scholar Mayer , Adam , Naija Marxisms: Revolutionary Thought in Nigeria ( London : Pluto Press , 2016 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

11 On Kelsen, see Harris , J. W. , “ When and Why Does the Grundnorm Change? ” Cambridge Law Journal 29 , 1 ( 1971 ): 103 –33CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

12 Reid , Richard , “ State of Anxiety: History and Nation in Modern Africa ,” Past and Present 229 , 1 ( 2015 ): 239 –69CrossRefGoogle Scholar Chrétien , Jean-Pierre , The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History , Straus , Scott , trans. ( London : Zone , 2003 )Google Scholar Schoenbrun , David , A Green Place, a Good Place: Agrarian Change, Gender, and Social Identity in the Great Lakes Region to the 15th Century ( Portsmouth : Heineman , 1998 )Google Scholar Wariboko , Nimi , Ethics and Society in Nigeria: Identity, History, Political Theory ( Rochester : Rochester University Press , 2019 )Google Scholar .

13 On these longer questions, see Afigbo , Adiele , The Igbo and Their Neighbours: Inter-Group Relations in Southeastern Nigeria to 1953 ( Ibadan : University of Ibadan Press , 1987 )Google Scholar Ifemesia , C. C. , Southeastern Nigeria in the Nineteenth Century: An Introductory Analysis ( New York : Nok Publishers , 1978 )Google Scholar Dike , Kenneth , Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830–1885 ( Oxford : Clarendon Press , 1956 )Google Scholar Nwokeji , Ugo , The Slave Trade and Culture in the Bight of Biafra: An African Society in the Atlantic World ( New York : Cambridge University Press , 2010 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar . More generally, see Ade Ajayi , J. F. , “ Colonialism: An Episode in African History ,” in Falola , Toyin , ed., Tradition and Change in Africa: The Essays of J. F. Ade Ajayi ( Trenton : Africa World Press , 2000 )Google Scholar .

14 The cracks that showed through were not a referendum on their ability as storytellers, but rather a reflection of how difficult this task was. Jewsiewicki , Bogumil , “ African Historical Studies Academic Knowledge as ‘Usable Past’ and Radical Scholarship ,” African Studies Review 32 , 3 ( 1989 ): 1 – 76 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

15 Cooper , Frederick , Citizenship, Inequality, and Difference: Historical Perspectives ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2018 ), 144Google Scholar Nyamanjoh , Francis B. , “ Citizenship ,” in Desai , Gaurav and Masquelier , Adeline , eds., Critical Terms for the Study of Africa ( Chicago : University of Chicago Press , 2018 ), 57Google Scholar . See also Geschiere , Peter , The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Africa and Europe ( Chicago : University of Chicago Press , 2009 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Hunter , Emma , ed., Citizenship, Belonging, and Political Community in Africa: Dialogues between Past and Present ( Athens : Ohio University Press , 2016 )Google Scholar .

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17 Gregory Mann, From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 5.

18 Important discussions of this problem include Herbst , Jeffrey , States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2000 )Google Scholar Jackson , Robert H. and Rosberg , Carl G. , “ Why Africa's Weak States Persist: The Empirical and the Juridical in Statehood ,” World Politics 35 , 1 ( 1982 ): 1 – 24 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

19 National Archives of the United Kingdom, FCO 38/216, Summary of meeting between Lord Shepherd and Sir Louis Mbanefo, 11 June 1968.

20 On Biafra's complicated relationship with the idea of “modernity” see Anthony , Douglas , “ Resourceful and Progressive Blackmen: Modernity and Race in Biafra, 1967–1970 ,” Journal of African History 51 , 1 ( 2010 ): 41 – 61 CrossRefGoogle Scholar . In the contemporary literature that reevaluates how bureaucracy operates as an implement of administration, see Kafka , Ben , The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork ( Cambridge : MIT Press , 2012 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Crooks , Peter and Parsons , Timothy , eds., Empires and Bureaucracy in World History: From Late Antiquity to the Twentieth Century ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2016 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Hull , Matthew S. , Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan ( Berkeley : University of California Press , 2012 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

21 Achebe , Chinua , There Was a Country: A Memoir ( New York : Penguin , 2012 ), 144Google Scholar .

22 Significantly, this is the only time “Igbo” appears in the declaration. Ojukwu , Chukwuemeka Odumegwu , The Ahiara Declaration: The Principles of the Biafran Revolution ( Geneva : Markpress , 1969 )Google Scholar .

23 “Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu,” in H. B. Momoh, ed., The Nigerian Civil War, 1967–1970: History and Reminiscences (Ibadan: Sam Bookman, 2000), 758.

24 On European statecraft, law, and the articulation of colonial boundaries, see Pitts , Jennifer , Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire ( Cambridge : Harvard University Press , 2018 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Press , Steven , Rogue Empires: Contracts and Conmen in Europe's Scramble for Africa ( Cambridge : Harvard University Press , 2017 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Tamuno , Tekena , The Evolution of the Nigerian State: The Southern Phase, 1898–1914 ( London : Longman , 1972 )Google Scholar Anene , J. C. , The International Boundaries of Nigeria 1885–1960: The Framework of an Emergent African Nation ( New York : Humanities Press , 1970 )Google Scholar .

25 Cooper , Frederick , “ Gatekeeping Practices, Gatekeeper States and Beyond ,” Third World Thematics 3 , 3 ( 2018 ): 455 –68CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

26 The evidence for this logic is admittedly partial. Biafra's legal records are very scattered and incomplete, and it is impossible to count cases in any given town or court with confidence. The fragments that survive suggest a wide and varied use of the courts, however, even though the importance of Biafra's legal institutions is difficult to establish quantitatively.

27 Ojukwu , Emeka , The Ahiara Declaration: The Principles of the Biafran Revolution ( Geneva : Markpress , 1969 )Google Scholar .

28 As Samera Esmeir argues, the rule of law can conceal and reproduce the forms of despotic power that it allegedly constrains Juridical Humanity: A Colonial History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 199. See also Mann , Gregory , “ What Was the ‘Indigénat’? The ‘Empire of Law’ in French West Africa ,” Journal of African History 50 , 3 ( 2009 ): 331 –53CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

29 On this idea broadly, see Ginsburg , Tom and Moustafa , Tamir , Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2008 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Moore , Sally Falk , Law as Process: An Anthropological Approach ( London : Routledge , 1978 )Google Scholar .

30 Enugu State High Court, uncatalogued collection, Innocent [illegible] and Patrick Ali, 13 June 1967.

31 Sampson , Ekong , The Path of Justice Chike Idigbe ( Lagos : Distinct Universal Limited , 1999 ), 75 – 76 Google Scholar .

32 I borrow this language from Fraenkel , Ernst , The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2017 [1941])CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

33 Biafra Sun, 5 June 1967: 1. Like other aspects of the Biafran legal system, the declaration of the state of emergency had its origins in colonial legal and administrative practice. Emergency measures had been implemented at many junctures in colonial Nigeria, most notably in the southeast in the context of the 1929 Ogu Umunwaanyi, a major anti-colonial rebellion led by market women in Aba. See Bastian , Misty L. , “ Vultures of the Marketplace: Southeastern Nigerian Women and the Discourses of the Ogu Umunwaanyi (Women's War) of 1929 ,” in Allman , Jean et al. , eds., Women in African Colonial Histories ( Bloomington : Indiana University Press , 2002 )Google Scholar .

34 NNAE MINJUST (Ministry of Justice) 115/1/1, “Special Tribunal Nbawsi—Return of Cases,” 11 Dec. 1969.

35 NNAE MINJUST 90/1/31, M.O.I. Idigo to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, 2 July 1968.

36 Interview with Anthony Mogboh, in his chambers in City Layout, New Haven, Enugu, 2 Oct. 2014.

37 NNAE MINJUST 115/1/1, Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice to the Chairman, Special Tribunal, Nbawsi, 10 Nov. 1967.

38 Interview with Mike Onwuzunike, Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu, 14 Sept. 2014.

39 Wheatley , Natasha , “ Spectral Legal Personality in Interwar International Law: On New Ways of Not Being a State ,” Law and History Review 35 , 3 ( 2017 ): 753 –87CrossRefGoogle Scholar . See also Umphrey , Martha Merrill , “ Law in Drag: Trials and Legal Performativity ,” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 21 , 2 ( 2011 ): 516 –31Google Scholar .

40 Ojukwu, Ahiara Declaration.

41 Nelson Ottah, Rebels against Rebels (Lagos: Manson and Company, 1981), 124.

42 NNAE MINJUST 116/1/1, The State v. Emmanuel Eke Onwuachimba and Six Others, 1969.

43 Enugu State High Court, uncatalogued collection, Peter Iwoha and Commissioner of Police, 21 July 1967.

44 Judges sometimes commented on this tension in their rulings. See Enugu State High Court, uncatalogued collection, Nicholas Mbagwu and Chief Marcus Odum, Aug. 1967.

45 NNAE BCA 1/1/3, Nsisong Okon v. The State, 19 Mar 1968.

46 NNAE BCA 1/1/11, Iguo Okon Usung Urua v. The State, 19 Jan. 1968.

47 NNAE BCA 1/1/54, L. O. Uchendu v. Nigerian Railway Corporation, 2 Apr. 1968.

48 Uchendu's victory meant little, however, since secession had made the decision moot. The Nigerian Railway Corporation had ceased to exist as far as Biafra was concerned, and in 1968 the part of the railway still operating in the east was calling itself the “Biafra Railway Corporation,” a different entity from the one Uchendu sued.

49 “The Fateful Decision,” reproduced in Akpan , Ntieyong U. , The Struggle for Secession, 1966–1970: A Personal Account of the Nigerian Civil War ( London : Frank Cass , 1972 ), 78Google Scholar .

50 Nigerian National Archives, Calabar 609 CAD 396/1/vol. x 3/3/356, “Recruitment into Biafra Army,” 7 July 1967.

51 NNAE BCA 1/1/74, Ephraim Onwumere and two others v. The State, 12 Mar. 1968.

52 Akande , Rabiat , “ Secularizing Islam: The Colonial Encounter and the Making of a British Islamic Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria, 1903–58 ,” Law and History Review 38 , 2 ( 2020 ): 459 –93CrossRefGoogle Scholar Mamdani , Mahmood , “ Historicizing Power and Responses to Power: Indirect Rule and Its Reform ,” Social Research 66 , 3 ( 1999 ): 859 –86Google ScholarPubMed Spear , Thomas , “ Neo-Traditionalism and the Limit of Invention in British Colonial Africa ,” Journal of African History 44 , 1 ( 2003 ): 3 – 27 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

53 The closure of the customary courts did not mean the end of custom in Biafra. Informal customary arbitration over property and matters of family continued throughout the war, which the Ministry of Justice tolerated, and matters of custom appeared before magistrate's courts regularly.

54 They believed this despite efforts to standardize and codify customary law, most notably the Restatement of African Law project at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Customary law would later have a resurgence, but in the first flush of independence most African jurists felt that their fellow citizens deserved something better. See African Conference on the Rule of Law, Lagos, Nigeria January 3–7, 1961: A Report on the Proceedings of the Conference (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 1961).

55 Enugu State High Court, uncatalogued collection, “In re: Obongship of Calabar,” 9 Dec. 1967.

56 See also a case involving Igbo Biafrans who became caught up in a matter of Annang law, ultimately resulting in a mistrial. NNAE BCA 1/2/3, Nwamiri Anyiso and Nwaonumara Anyiso v. The State, 3 June 1968.

57 Enugu State High Court, uncatalogued collection, The State v. Ikenna Odoh, 9 Dec. 1969.

58 National Archives of the United Kingdom, FCO 25/232, “Confidential Report by David Hunt, Lagos,” 23 Mar. 1967.

59 On Biafra's propaganda, see Doron , Roy , “ Marketing Genocide: Biafran Propaganda Strategies During the Nigerian Civil War, 1967–70 ,” Journal of Genocide Research 16 , 2/3 ( 2014 ): 227 –46CrossRefGoogle Scholar Omaka , Arua Oko , “ Conquering the Home Front: Radio Biafra in the Nigeria–Biafra War, 1967–1970 ,” War in History 25 , 4 ( 2018 ): 555 –75CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

60 See, respectively, Chatterjee , Partha , The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 1993 )Google Scholar Burbank , Jane and Cooper , Frederick , Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2011 )Google Scholar .

61 National Archives of the United Kingdom, DO 186/1, “Transcription of Ojukwu's 29th May Biafran Anniversary Address.”

62 On these borders, see Nugent , Paul and Asiwaju , A. I. , eds., African Boundaries: Barriers, Conduits and Opportunities ( London : Pinter , 1996 )Google Scholar Widstrand , Carl Gösta , ed., African Boundary Problems ( Uppsala : Scandinavian Institute of African Studies , 1969 )Google Scholar .

63 Comparatively, see De , Rohit , A People's Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2018 )Google Scholar .

64 Reconciling that apparent thinness with their capacity to be repressive was a task for all who wrote on African states in this period. Bates , Robert , When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late Century Africa ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2008 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Young , Crawford , The Postcolonial State in Africa: Fifty Years of Independence, 1960–2010 ( Madison : University of Wisconsin Press , 2012 )Google Scholar Mamdani , Mahmood , Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 1996 )Google Scholar Clapham , Christopher , Africa and the International System ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 1996 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar . Critically, see Osaghae , Eghosa , “ Fragile States ,” Development in Practice 17 , 4–5 ( 2007 ): 691 –99CrossRefGoogle Scholar Ihonvbere , Julius , “ The ‘Irrelevant’ State, Ethnicity, and the Quest for Nationhood in Africa ,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 17 , 1 ( 1994 ): 42 – 60 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

65 Jackson , Robert H. and Rosberg , Carl G. , “ Why Africa's Weak States Persist: The Empirical and the Juridical in Statehood ,” World Politics 35 , 1 ( 1982 ): 1 – 24 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

66 Beek , Jan , Göpfert , Mirco , Owen , Olly , and Steinberg , Johnny , eds., Police in Africa: The Street Level View ( London : Hurst , 2017 ), 2CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

67 Reid , Richard , A History of Modern Uganda ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2017 ), 5CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

68 Bayart , Jean-François , The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly ( Cambridge : Polity , 2009 ), 41Google Scholar Chabal , Patrick and Daloz , J. , Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument ( Oxford : James Currey , 1999 ), 95Google Scholar . Social scientists offer many different terms for understanding the state in postcolonial Africa. See among them Reno , William , Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 1995 )Google Scholar Macamo , Elísio Salvado , The Taming of Fate: Approaching Risk from a Social Action Perspective: Case Studies from Southern Mozambique ( Dakar : Codesria , 2017 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Young , Crawford and Turner , Thomas , The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State ( Madison : University of Wisconsin Press , 1985 )Google Scholar Comaroff , Jean and Comaroff , John , eds., Law and Disorder in the Postcolony ( Chicago : University of Chicago Press , 2006 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Mbembe , Achille , Necropolitics ( Durham : Duke University Press , 2019 )Google Scholar Fassin , Didier , ed., At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions ( London : Pluto Press , 2015 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Watson , Jini Kim and Wilder , Gary , eds., The Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present ( New York : Fordham University Press , 2018 )Google Scholar . See also Hunt , Nancy Rose , A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo ( Durham : Duke University Press , 2016 )Google Scholar Nugent , Paul , Africa since Independence: A Comparative History ( Basingstoke : Palgrave , 2004 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar . On structural adjustment in Nigeria, see Olukoshi , Adebayo O. , The Politics of Structural Adjustment in Nigeria ( London : James Currey , 1993 )Google Scholar Adeoye , A. O. , “ Of Economic Masquerades and Vulgar Economy: A Critique of the Structural Adjustment Program in Nigeria ,” Africa and Development/Afrique et Développement 16 , 1 ( 1991 ): 23 – 44 Google Scholar .

69 This fundamental insight of the law and society approach is a given in legal scholarship elsewhere. See Witt , John Fabian , “ Law and War in American History ,” American Historical Review 115 , 3 ( 2010 ): 768 –78CrossRefGoogle Scholar . Among recent reevaluations of the nation-state's history, see MacArthur , Julie , “ Decolonizing Sovereignty: States of Exception along the Kenya-Somali Frontier ,” American Historical Review 124 , 1 ( 2019 ): 108 –43CrossRefGoogle Scholar Larmer , Miles , “ Nation-Making at the Border: Zambian Diplomacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo ,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 61 , 1 ( 2019 ): 145 –75CrossRefGoogle Scholar Walker , Lydia , “ Decolonization in the 1960s: On Legitimate and Illegitimate Nationalist Claims-Making ,” Past and Present 242 , 1 ( 2019 ): 227 –64CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

70 Sklar , Richard , Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 1963 )Google Scholar Campbell , John , Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink ( New York : Roman and Littlefield , 2010 )Google Scholar Maier , Karl , This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria ( New York : Public Affairs , 2000 )Google Scholar . See also Chinua Achebe's tongue-in-cheek polemic, The Trouble with Nigeria (Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1983).

71 Chabal , Patrick and Daloz , Jean-Pascal , Culture Troubles: Politics and the Interpretation of Meaning ( London : Hurst , 2006 ), 261Google Scholar . Nigeria has the largest population on the continent by a significant margin.

72 It is important to consider whose interests Nigeria's fragility might serve. Michael Watts makes the point that Nigeria's capacities are asymmetrical—some parts of its administrative apparatus are coherent and discernable, while others are spectral. As he writes, Nigeria's state structure “has been informalized for particular purposes, vested with certain robust state capabilities, and made functional (i.e., instrumentalized through networks, pacts, and coalitions) via specific modalities and ordering of power.” Watts , Michael J. , “ State as Illusion? A Commentary on Moral Economies of Corruption ,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 39 , 3 ( 2019 ): 551 –58CrossRefGoogle Scholar , 554. See also Pierce , Steven , Moral Economies of Corruption: State Formation and Political Culture in Nigeria ( Durham : Duke University Press , 2016 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Osaghae , Eghosa E. , Crippled Giant: Nigeria since Independence ( Bloomington : Indiana University Press , 1998 )Google Scholar LeVan , A. Carl , Contemporary Nigerian Politics: Competition in a Time of Transition and Terror ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2019 )Google Scholar .

73 In this vein, see Obadare , Ebenezer , Humor, Silence, and Civil Society in Nigeria ( Rochester : University of Rochester Press , 2016 )Google Scholar Bourne , Richard , Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century ( London : Zed Books , 2015 )Google Scholar Obadare , Ebenezer and Adebanwi , Wale , eds., Encountering the Nigerian State ( New York : Palgrave Macmillan , 2010 )Google Scholar .

74 Armitage , David , Civil Wars: A History in Ideas ( New York : Alfred A. Knopf , 2017 ), 15Google Scholar .

75 Lagos State Research and Archives Board, CSG 1.4, Lagos State Military Governor Mobolaji Johnson to Nnamdi Azikiwe, 15 Oct. 1969.

76 The historian Tekena Tamuno offered a similar interpretation in the 1970s, in “Introduction: Men and Measures in the Nigerian Crisis, 1966–1970,” in Tekena Tamuno, ed., Nigeria since Independence, Volume VI, The Civil War Years (Ibadan: Heinemann, 1989).

77 Cooper , Frederick , Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2016 )Google Scholar Olúfẹ´mi Táíwò, Africa Must Be Modern: A Manifesto (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014) Waberi , Abdourahman A. , In the United States of Africa ( Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press , 2009 )Google Scholar White , Luise , Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization ( Chicago : University of Chicago Press , 2015 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

78 Getachew , Adom , Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2019 ), 11Google Scholar .

79 See Reno , Will , “ African Rebels and the Citizenship Question ,” in Dorman , Sara , Hammett , Daniel , and Nugent , Paul , eds., Making Nations, Creating Strangers: States and Citizenship in Africa ( Leiden : Brill , 2007 )Google Scholar .

80 Comparatively, see Sharafi , Mitra , Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772–1947 ( New York : Cambridge University Press , 2014 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Judson , Pieter M. , The Habsburg Empire: A New History ( Cambridge : Harvard University Press , 2016 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

81 Davidson , Basil , The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State ( New York : Times Books , 1992 )Google Scholar . See also Fawole , W. Alade , The Illusion of the Post-Colonial State: Governance and Security Challenges in Africa ( Lanham : Lexington , 2018 )Google Scholar Neocosmos , Michael , Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a Theory of Emancipatory Politics ( Johannesburg : Wits University Press , 2016 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Wamba-dia-Wamba , Ernest , History of Neo- colonialism or Neo-colonialist History? Self-Determination and History in Africa ( Trenton : Africa Research and Publications Project , [ 1984 ])Google Scholar .

82 Wilder , Gary , Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World ( Durham : Duke University Press , 2015 ), 4CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

83 Those alternatives seemed especially likely to people in international institutions, on both the left and the right. See Mazower , Mark , No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2009 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Slobodian , Quinn , Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism ( Cambridge : Harvard University Press , 2018 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

84 See Kelly , John D. and Kaplan , Martha , “ Legal Fictions after Empire ,” in Howland , Douglas and White , Luise , eds., The State of Sovereignty: Territories, Laws, Populations ( Bloomington : Indiana University Press , 2009 ), 169 –95Google Scholar .

By another name

In Nigerian history books, that period between 1966 and 1970 is called The Nigerian Civil War or The Nigerian-Biafran war. But for those of us whose families lived through it, it is an erasure of truth not to name it The Biafran Genocide.

Estimates of the death toll vary – with some putting it at more than one million and others at more than two million. Some died as a result of the fighting but most from hunger and disease after the Nigerian government imposed a land and sea blockade that resulted in famine.

In The Republic, Amarachi Iheke gives a detailed analysis of the case for and against classifying it as a genocide, arguing that whether or not you believe it to have been a genocide, the conflict exposes “blind spots in our application of international human rights norms” and that “moving forward, as part of a national reconciliation project, it is necessary we embark on critical truth-seeking around Biafra’s genocide claim”.

But the foundations of the Nigerian government’s denial were planted on January 15, 1970, when Biafra agreed to a ceasefire and the war ended. Nigeria’s Military Head of State General Yakubi Gowon declared the conflict had “no victor, no vanquished”.

But there was clearly a victor – the Nigerian government, which had regained control of the oil-rich region – and a vanquished – the people of the now-defunct Republic of Biafra, on whose land the war had been fought, whose homes had been destroyed, whose relatives had died of starvation and disease, and their descendants who would have to navigate the world with the weight of their trans-generational trauma.

A Biafran child sits by a pile of yams, 1968 [File: Getty Images]

Nigerian Civil War Effects

The effects of the Nigeria civil war can still be felt everywhere in the country at varying degrees. The Hausas and Igbos still walk on eggs around each other, the Nigerian civil war has made tribalism or ethnic rivalry chewed deeper still.

The resentment felt by the Igbos whenever there is a slight evidence of domination by the Hausas and vice versa. There is so much mistrust and tension between the tribes in Nigeria.

Even the present day boko haram which is said to mean “western education is an abomination” or “no to western education” can be said to have stylishly be birthed from the Nigerian civil war.

The Igbos were one liberated ethnic group and pursued a level of education, they believed in deciding their fate and not to be dictated to while the Hausas had no issue submitting to authorities and did not really pursue education then…is someone relating?

Looking at the political sector, we can see it is largely dominated by the Hausas, Northerners.

Economic Effects of The Civil War

It cannot be denied the Nigerian civil war affected the economy of the country. Imagine what a country Nigeria would have been without the existence of a Nigerian civil war!

The Nigerian civil war took its toll on the economy of Nigeria in the following ways:

  • Brain drain: Nigerians or biafrans fled for their lives to other countries as refugees and started a new life there, contributing to the development of the country in which they are now part of.
  • The igbos had a positive effect on the economy, you know them na they are business men and women, but they were ostracized from the economic activities of the country sided they were biafrans and faced Biafra.
  • The Nigerian government had to rebuild the war affected areas, some which the government was responsible for due to the Nigerian civil war. This was a waste of resource it was building on a spot twice, first before the war and second after.
  • There were employment opportunities due to the reconstruction of affected areas this was an expensive cost on the aspect of wages/salaries.
  • Education was put on hold, who could go to school in such atmosphere? Educational institutions were shut down.
  • Unemployment as many industrial plants, companies were said to be shut down also.
  • There was an alarming high rate of crime, lawlessness, etc.
  • The orphans, homeless, destitute of the country became the government responsibilities.

Everything productive, that would also have boosted Nigeria economy to a level farther than where she is today, was brought to a standstill in Nigeria because of the Nigerian civil war.

Civil War In Nigeria Facts

Here are some facts about the Nigerian civil war, you should know:

  • A peace conference was organised and attended at Aburi where agreements were reached but they did not hold giving a boost to the morale of the Nigerian civil war.
  • Although the republic of Biafra was declared, they were on the defensive.
  • The Nigeria civil war began in the early hours of the 6 th of July, 1967 when Nigeria responded as was expected by Biafra.
  • Colonel Victor Banjo, who led the biafran forces on the 9 th of August, 1967, was executed as ordered by the President of Biafra and General of the Biafran army, late Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on 22 nd of September, 1967.
  • France and Israel made weapons available to both sides during the Nigerian civil war.
  • Nigeria had an unending support from their colonial master, Britain, who would not want to see their work go up in flames. This support contributed greatly to Nigeria’s victory.
  • A mass slaughter of over 500 civilians took place at Asaba after the Nigerian army captured it.
  • Colonel Ogbu Ogi surrendered to General Benjamin Adekunle, black scorpion.
  • 12 th of July, 1967, Garkam fell.
  • 14 th of July, 1967, Nsukka fell.
  • 19 th of May, 1968, Port Harcourt fell.
  • 9 th of January, 1970, Owerri fell.
  • On the same 9 th of January, 1970 late General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu handed over power to his vice, Major General Philip Effiong.
  • The late biafran warlord fled for his life to Ivory Coast, where he was granted political asylum.
  • 11 th of January, 1970, Uli fell.
  • On the 13 th of January, 1970 Biafra surrendered to Nigeria bringing an end to the Nigerian civil war but not an irrevocable damage.

More Nigerian Civil War Pictures

Here are more Nigerian civil war pictures – War is never had a positive impact on lives and properties.

Colonel Gowon became head-of-state at 32 following the murder of the former head-of-state, General Ironsi, who had appointed him Chief of Army
Staff. Nigerian soldier on Aba Road Biafran soldiers Ojukwu, displaying new Biafran stamps and currency

A History of the Republic of Biafra

The Republic of Biafra lasted for less than three years, but the war over its secession would contort Nigeria for decades to come. A History of the Republic of Biafra: Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2020) examines the history of the Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath from an uncommon vantage point – the courtroom. Wartime Biafra was glutted with firearms, wracked by famine, and administered by a government that buckled under the weight of the conflict. In these dangerous conditions, many people survived by engaging in fraud, extortion, and armed violence. When the fighting ended in 1970, these survival tactics endured, even though Biafra itself disappeared from the map. Based on research using an original archive of legal records and oral histories, Daly catalogues how people navigated conditions of extreme hardship on the war front, and shows how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country's long experience of crime that was to follow.

Samuel Fury Childs Daly is an Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies, History, and International Comparative Studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Watch the video: Republic of Biafra proclaimed May 30 1967